Ronnie “devastated” that the 2020 UK Championship won’t be held in York

Ronnie has been speaking to Desmond Kane about his disappointment that the 2020 UK Championship is being moved to Milton Keynes.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ‘DEVASTATED’ UK CHAMPIONSHIP HAS BEEN MOVED FROM HIS FAVOURITE CITY

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he is “devastated” that the UK Championship has been moved from his favourite city of York to Milton Keynes later this month due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The reigning world champion has won four of his seven UK titles at the Barbican in York including victories in 2001, 2014, 2017 and 2018 that saw him overtake Steve Davis as the most prolific UK winner of all time.

By Desmond Kane

RonnieUKChampion

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he is “devastated” the UK Championship will not be going ahead in his favourite city of York later this month due to the global health pandemic.

Due to strict UK government health guidelines, the 2020/21 season has been shifted behind closed doors to a temporary set-up at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with players subjected to regular Covid-19 testing at events.

The European Masters, English Open, Championship League and this week’s Champion of Champions event have all been staged in Milton Keynes with the UK Championship set to join the Northern Irish Open, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix in being moved near the home of English League One football club MK Dons before Christmas.

“This year’s Betway UK Championship will be staged in Milton Keynes for the first time, in line with Government Covid-19 regulations,” said tournament organisers World Snooker Tour in a statement on Wednesday.

“One of snooker’s most prestigious events and part of the Triple Crown Series, the tournament has been staged at York Barbican since 2011. However this year all rounds will take place at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, running from November 23rd to December 6th.”

O’Sullivan lifted his sixth world title in Sheffield in August with only a few hundred fans admitted at the Crucible for the final two days, but says playing every tournament behind closed doors in one town is not ideal for the sport.
The seven-times UK champion would prefer to compete at the KT Leisure Centre in Crawley – a venue he berated for smelling of urine at the English Open in 2018 – than being forced to travel to every tournament in Milton Keynes.

“It is what it is, but at some point you want the fans to come back because without the fans it is hard,” said O’Sullivan, who became the youngest winner of a ranking event at the age of 17 when he defeated Stephen Hendry 10-6 in the UK final in 1993. “Listen, you feed off them sometimes and it is nice to come out and play in front of a crowd.

“It’s a shame we aren’t going back to York. I’m devastated because that is my favourite city in the whole country, even in the whole world,” the world number two told Eurosport.

“To not be going there and back to Milton Keynes – that’s just as hard in many ways as having to just keep going to Milton Keynes.

“I think I’d even take a little tournament at Crawley over Milton Keynes.”

WST chairman Barry Hearn is adamant the UK Championship will return to the York Barbican next year.

“We are disappointed not to be going to York Barbican for the Betway UK Championship this year because it is a fantastic venue in a wonderful city,” said Hearn. “The people of York can rest assured that we fully intend to be back in York next year and in fact we have already agreed dates for 2021 and 2022 with the venue.

“Following extensive consultation with the UK Government and the relevant public health bodies, the decision has been made to stage all matches in Milton Keynes this time. It is an ideal venue, we are working with an exceptional team there and we have proved over the past few months that we can stage major tournaments there, involving 128 players, safely and successfully.

“In the circumstances we face today, our crucial objective is to keep our events going, provide competitive action and prize money for our players, and top class sport for the many millions of television viewers around the world who are in need of inspiration.”

That state of mind will not help Ronnie as it seems that we will be stuck in Milton Keynes for some more time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted for most of the season.

Some serious / nice / fun Ronnie stuff

Let’s start with the serious stuff.

Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about Marcus Rashford and his campaign to help disadvantaged children who suffer from hunger in the UK.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: ‘MARCUS RASHFORD HAS RUN RINGS AROUND GOVERNMENT, THEY’VE GOT IT BADLY WRONG’

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan has joined the growing chorus of support for Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford’s “fantastic” campaign for free school meals. The six-times defending world snooker champion feels it should be used as part of a wider movement to end the scourge of hunger and homelessness in the UK.

The superficial thirst for success in professional sport is left trailing by the very real hunger for social justice. The very real chance to affect meaningful change in society.
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan are among the favourites for this year’s Sports Personality of the Year award – and both sing from the same hymn sheet in calling for an end to child poverty in the UK.

Scoring goals, potting balls or holing putts for a living means little when you consider what is going on in the wider world at large. Real drama looms far away from playing games.

Marcus Rasford petition tweet

Rashford was awarded an MBE for his campaign to extend free school meals for the most vulnerable during the summer holidays, but has so far been rebuffed in his bid to see the government support his calls for an extension until Easter 2021.
In the year of a global pandemic, O’Sullivan has applauded the England forward’s passion in his campaign for free school meals during school holidays, but can’t understand why hunger and homelessness has not been properly addressed in the UK.

“I think the campaign is fantastic. It is brilliant,” said O’Sullivan. “I’ve been there and know what it is like to have to rely on free school dinners.
“This is very important to families up and down the country. No kid or person should go hungry in this country I believe.

“Homelessness has always been a big bugbear of mine. Why do some people have so much yet some people can’t even get a sandwich or a cup of tea?

“I could never quite fathom that out or how that was allowed to happen.
“Unless people like Marcus Rashford stand up and speak for these families who are struggling then their voice doesn’t get heard.

“I think he’s used his platform, especially for someone so young to come out and speak and be so passionate and proactive in his campaign.”

Rashford has submitted a petition that has attracted almost one million signatures forcing it to be debated in parliament.

O’Sullivan feels the government should “admit defeat”, change their position and make Rashford the focal point of the campaign to eradicate child poverty.

“I think the government have really got this one badly wrong. If I was advising the government, the first thing I’d be telling them is to get Marcus Rashford in to talk to him and be wanting to work with him,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

“We want him representing us as a government and us as a country. We want the whole world to see what a brilliant job we are doing.

“At the moment, they’ve got it wrong. The best thing they can do is admit defeat and admit we can all be teachable.

“Someone like Marcus Rashford is running rings around them at the moment. If they want the embarrassment to stop then the smartest thing to do is bring him on side.”

O’Sullivan – who returns to action at the Champion of Champions event in Milton Keynes next week – is also dismayed to see investment being spent on railway projects such as HS2 when there are people living below the breadline.
Marcus Rashford tweet - poors have no voice

“I think at the moment, it’s about unity. When you watch what is going on in America, there is so much division,” said the seven-times UK and Masters winner.
“That’s never really a good thing. Hopefully as a country at this time, it’s about uniting and supporting the vulnerable.

“With the free school meals, they can find millions to get help you get from the North of England to the South of England 20 minutes quicker yet you can’t find £20 million for some school dinners and an extra £5m for the people of Liverpool and Manchester at this time.

Tweet coldplay support Marcus Rashford

“You think something is quite not right there and again wonder where are we at? How can you not find that money? Yet you can find £100 million for a train to get you from north to south quicker.
“This is a time to support the vulnerable. A lot of people are going through hardship at the moment, and this is when you want your government and country to support you.”

Ronnie was with Jason Francis at the Fan Cave doing a “social distancing” signing whilst answering fans questions.

This was shared live by Jason on Facebook. The actual footage starts after about 12 minutes.

So, Ronnie will play next at the Champion of Champions, Northern Ireland Open, and the UK Championship.

He also names his Mount Rushmore of snooker. It’s “Joe Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and himself” or, not taking himself into account “Joe Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Steve Davis”

This Mount Rushmore thing isn’t a new idea… here is David Hendon’s take on it nine years ago on the Snooker Scene blog

25.10.11

MADE OF STONE

The Mount Rushmore national memorial was carved into the South Dakotan mountain side 70 years ago to commemorate four legendary US presidents.

What if snooker were to have a similar monument to the players who have best served and represented the sport?

Of course, it isn’t going to happen unless some lunatic is let loose with a chisel on Snowdon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss who should appear on such a memorial.

The rules: there is only room for four players. In fact that’s the only rule.

So here are the main contenders, considered objectively, not based on personal favourites…

Joe Davis was the father of professional snooker. It was he who saw its potential in the age of billiards. It was he who began the World Championship, buying the trophy still presented to this day using half the original entry fees from the inaugural championship in 1927.

Davis won the world title 15 times in succession before retiring from the professional game in 1946. His style of play was the textbook followed by many who took up snooker in his wake.

Ray Reardon was the most successful player of the 1970s as the professional game was revived and started to receive TV attention.

He was six times a world champion, having not had the chance to play professionally at the early age modern players now do.

Alex Higgins was a firebrand and a rebel and these characteristics, coupled with his electrifying style of play, brought a new audience to snooker, attracted television coverage and sponsorship and helped lead to a burgeoning professional circuit.

In the snooker soap opera of the 1980s, he was a much loved villain who put the sport on the front pages and kept up the remarkable levels of interest.

Steve Davis lived a much more placid life and was completely dedicated to being the best, which he was for a decade.

Davis has won more titles than anyone else and is still capable, into his 50s, of producing high quality performances. As an ambassador for snooker, he remains unsurpassed.

Jimmy White’s enduring popularity and cheerful optimism in the face of many knocks means he is still a draw more than 30 years after turning professional.

Never a world champion, he won ten ranking titles, including the UK Championship, plus the Masters and has provided many a fan with the sort of emotional rollercoaster ride which means they remain loyal to him long after his peak.

Stephen Hendry raised playing standards and ushered in a new era of attacking snooker. He has won more of what matters than any other player.

There were 90 ranking events played in the 1990s. Hendry won 27 of them, just under a third of the total. He is still more than 100 centuries ahead of the field.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is a rare natural talent whose brand of entertaining snooker has drawn many new fans to the game during the last 15 years.

Perhaps the best break builder snooker has ever seen, his many controversies have only added to his status as flawed genius but his achievements stand for themselves.

John Higgins has proved himself as the toughest match-player of the current time, with four world titles to his name and an almost innate knowledge of every aspect of the game.

Brilliant under pressure, he remains every bit as difficult to beat as when he first emerged two decades ago.

I realise some will argue for others, such as Fred Davis, John Spencer and Mark Williams, but this is the list from which I will select my four.

The first face who earns a place in our imaginary mountainside is Steve Davis.

It is hard to believe now the attention he had in the 1980s, when snooker bestrode TV sport like a colossus – and Steve did the same on the green baize.

He never went off the rails, never shirked from his professional responsibilities and, despite the odd famous slip-up, just kept on winning.

He could have walked away happy with hit lot but, such is his love of the game, that he carried on and is still delighting fans now, as well as providing inspiration for a whole group of much younger players.

Davis was always the model player to look up to. He is to snooker what Jack Nicklaus is to golf.

The second face the carvers had better set about constructing is that of Hendry, who decided from a frighteningly young age that he was going to be the best.

Sport thrives on the fluff and intrigue that surrounds it, but the true test of greatness is achievement. For this alone Hendry deserves his place, but the quality of snooker he has produced down the years speaks for itself.

My third face will be that of Alex Higgins. He didn’t win as much as Reardon but he had an alchemy that meant he was an absolutely vital figure to snooker’s growth and development.

People admired the Reardons and Spencers but they loved Higgins. Many hated him too, but nobody who watched him play could fail to be excited by his charisma, his shot making and his theatrical style of death-or-glory snooker.

So one face left to be carved and, for me, it should be O’Sullivan.

It was Joe Davis’s misfortune not to be playing in the colour television age. Snooker owes him a huge debt of gratitude but that is not the whole story.

He created the professional game but he also killed it when he retired but continued to play exhibitions. Everyone knew the best player in the world wasn’t in the World Championship and it was eventually discontinued for a decade before being revived, largely due to the efforts of Rex Williams.

In truth, professional snooker had two beginnings. The first was under the auspices of Davis in 1926. The second was in 1969 when the World Championship reverted from challenge system to knock-out and Pot Black began. It was this latter beginning which was more significant to the sport as it is today.

Reardon’s modern day tally of world titles was equalled by Steve Davis and surpassed by Hendry. He may have won more than Alex Higgins but Higgins’s contribution off the table cannot be overlooked.

The only mark against White is that he never won the world title, which has to count him out.

John Higgins is a great player but ultimately O’Sullivan has been responsible for keeping interest levels up in an era in which snooker’s survival as a top level sport has been under threat following the loss of the tobacco millions.

New viewers around the world watching snooker for the first time on TV have been drawn in by O’Sullivan, whose talent and changeable personality have created a heady mix and sustained the game in the media. He is, by any definition, a star.

So my four for snooker’s Mount Rushmore are Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Alex Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Something tells me not everyone will agree with these choices.

I agreed with David at the time. Today I would kick out Alex Higgins and put Joe Davis there instead. Of course it’s all about why, in your opinion, a player should be included in that snooker pantheon. Form me it’s about a combination of their achievements and their contribution to the evolution of the game.

For me, it’s about what they brought to our sport

Joe Davis transformed a game into a sport. He set up the foundations of a professional approach to snooker.

Steve Davis was the first “complete professional” in the current understanding of what a professional sportsperson should be. He was dedicated, a student of his sport, and someone who paid attention to every detail.

Stephen Hendry started a revolution. He forever changed the way the game is played with  his extremely aggressive, attacking approach and the way he delelopped the pack from the blue at the first opportunity.

Ronnie brought Stephen Hendry’s game to a new level, whilst also integrating a very strong tactical side. He was probably the first player to gain true international superstar status strongly contributing to growing the popularity of snooker beyond the British/Irish traditional hotbed.

While we wait for the draw… Eurosport asked Ronnie about some Crucible memories

Ronnie O’Sullivan recalls his funniest Crucible memory – ‘Knowlsey was fuming’

John Parrott, Ronnie, Tony Knowles

Ronnie O’Sullivan is set to participate in his 27th straight World Championship as he chases a sixth title that would see him equal the Crucible hauls of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon.

It will be a serious business for O’Sullivan and the rest of snooker’s leading players with the game’s most coveted trophy and a £500,000 first prize on the line in Sheffield when the delayed tournament begins on Friday 31 July.

O’Sullivan has plenty of memories since first appearing at the Crucible as a teenager in 1993, but can also still enjoy the lighter side of the sport as a fan.

The five-times world champion – who is seeded sixth at this year’s event – recalls watching a match between then defending world champion John Parrott and Tony Knowles in 1992 when Parrott benefited from a blunder by legendary referee Len Ganley on his way to a 13-4 win in the last 16.

“One of my favourite moments was a match between John Parrott and Tony Knowles. I remember watching it on the box,” said O’Sullivan.

“John Parrott was in a snooker on the brown. He missed it, and the referee said: ‘foul four, and a miss’. Tony Knowles has said to the referee: ‘Yeah, put the white back’.

“Parrott suddenly gets down to pot the brown, blue, pink and black to clear up. Knowlsey is going mad. He is saying to the referee: ‘He couldn’t see that brown.’

“Poor Knowlsey. He was getting out of his chair, and was fuming. But it was funny to watch.”

It might be perceived as a bit mean to find that incident funny, but, myself, I have witnessed Tony Kowles getting quite worked up about something related to snooker and he got so passionate about it, despite the fact that nobody was disagreeing with him in that particular case, that indeed, it became actually funny.

Regarding the above incident, what puzzles me most is the fact that John Parrott must have known that the white had not been correctly replaced, and said nothing. Unless, of course, Tony’s perception of the situation was wrong from the start. That’s possible because, a player sat in his chair at the Crucible, certainly does not have the best view on the table.

Ronnie O’Sullivan on ‘boxing’ snooker bout with Stephen Hendry – ‘It was a big mistake’

Ronnie O, Ronnie Wood and Prince Naseem Hamed

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he will always regret engaging with boxing trash talk before his World Championship semi-final with Stephen Hendry in 2002.

Ahead of his Crucible clash with seven-times world champion Hendry 18 years ago, O’Sullivan infamously said he would like to send his opponent “back to his sad little life in Scotland”.

It is a moment the Essex player always regrets – he later apologised to Hendry – but believes his close friendship with former world featherweight champion boxer Prince Naseem Hamed did not help before getting inside the ropes with his fellow 36-times ranking winner.

“I wonder – rightly – whether he’s been listening to a certain Sheffield boxer with a penchant for shooting his mouth off,” said Hendry in his autobiography Me and the Table.

“In the last couple of seasons, my pal Prince Naseem has visibly switched his loyalties from me to Ronnie, and the latter has been spotted hanging out with Naz’s entourage. So it’s not surprising there’s a bit of fighting talk.”

The pre-match barbs backfired on O’Sullivan as he lost 17-13 to a fired up Hendry in the semi-finals, who also admitted it is the only grudge match he ever played at the iconic Sheffield venue.

Hendry rolled in breaks of 125, 124, 122, 113, 100, 81, 73, 65, 63, 59, 58, 55 and 53 as he won five of the last six frames to progress to the final, punching the air in completing victory.

“That was terrible. I blamed myself for that,” said O’Sullivan.

“It should never have happened. But I’m also blaming Naz for getting me so revved up. He said to me the day before the match: ‘You should be more like this, or more like that.’

“It was okay for Naz because he was a boxer, but I’m a snooker player. You have to respect your opponent. In boxing, they like that sort of trash talk to sell tickets. It wasn’t really me. I was easily led. When I said it, and when it came out, I was gutted.

It is something I will always regret for the rest of my life. Stephen was my hero, and still is. I never a meant a word of it. I’ve told Stephen that, and apologised to him. I have a lot of time for Stephen, and he accepted my apology. We’re good mates now – we have a solid friendship.

“It was a big mistake on my part.”

It was indeed a very bad idea and it backfired big time. It also led to quite heated – and colourful – discussions between fans of both players on forums and message boards, notably on BBC 606, long after the players themselves had patched things up!

 

Can Ronnie win another World title or two? Would Judd Trump beat Steve Davis?

Stephen Hendry was on Instagram, chatting with Alan McManus this time, and the question was raised, whether Ronnie can surpass Stephen’s record of 7 World Titles.

Here is Eurosport reporting on the two great Scots opinions

Hendry: O’Sullivan has ‘three or four more world titles in him’

Ronnie 2013 World Champion

Stephen Hendry is convinced Ronnie O’Sullivan can win “three or four more world titles” if he is determined to become snooker’s greatest Crucible champion.

The seven-times world champion Hendry insists O’Sullivan can still overtake him as the game’s most prolific winner despite celebrating the last of his five world victories in Sheffield seven years ago.

“If he wants to and his head is right, I think he can win another three or four world titles,” said Hendry during an Instagram chat with Alan McManus, who won the 1994 Masters with a 9-8 win over his fellow Scotsman.

McManus believes O’Sullivan, 44, has underachieved in his 28-year professional career despite drawing level with Hendry on 36 ranking event victories and becoming the first player to compile over 1000 career centuries.

“Probably (has underachieved). How many goes has he had at Sheffield? 27 goes or something. He’s won it five times which is good,” commented McManus.

“He looked like he was never being bothered properly until the early 2000s or something,” said Hendry.

He’ll always be a genius, but there seemed to be a time when he was suddenlythere to win.

McManus is slightly baffled by O’Sullivan’s recent comments regarding the length of the World Championship being too long for him and feels the Essex player should trust in the advice of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.

“With me, I’m such an emotional player and person, to try and hold it down for 17 days, I’m beaten before I go there sometimes, it’s just not a great tournament for me. It’s like asking Usain Bolt to run the marathon. It’s just not suited to his genes or personality,” said O’Sullivan.

McManus is adamant the duration of the event should not be an issue.

“I think we can safely say, can he win another world title? The answer is yes, of course he can,” said McManus.

“I don’t know about this 17-day thing he talks about. The first week you are only playing one match. I think he needs to get tuned in properly.

That guy Steve Peters seems to help him whatever he does. I would get him in tow and just get on with it.

Hendry says O’Sullivan cannot be blamed for not enjoying the challenge of the World Championship.

“Ronnie admits that he isn’t really interested in being there for 17 days. You can’t argue with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel,” said Hendry.

McManus feels a dream final would be an O’Sullivan showdown with undisputed world number one and world champion Judd Trump if the postponed tournament goes ahead behind closed doors at the end of July.

“He’s capable of doing it. Whether he can be bothered putting the work in to be able to do it, I don’t know it,” said McManus.

“It would be good if he gets to play Judd in the final. It would actually be interesting to see Ronnie being the underdog.

“Judd is the top man now, let’s face it.”

Funnily enough, Neil Robertson, talking to Desmond Kane, had expressed a similar opinion just a week ago

Robertson: O’Sullivan can still equal Hendry’s world record haul

Neil Robertson - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Desmond KaneDesmond Kane

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan can still reach Stephen Hendry’s record Crucible haul of seven if he wants it badly enough, according to 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

Australia’s greatest player believes O’Sullivan – world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – has the ability to add to his total of five victories despite last winning snooker’s ultimate event seven years ago with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins.

Hendry’s Crucible record is arguably the last major one O’Sullivan has yet to topple having lifted seven Masters and seven UK titles, compiling over 1,000 centuries and joining Hendry on 36 career ranking event wins.

O’Sullivan last reached the world final when he lost 18-14 to Mark Selby in 2014, but has suffered several surprising defeats in recent times including a 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago, one of the biggest shocks of all time.

He has twice lost in the quarter-finals over the past five years being unseated by Stuart Bingham in 2015 – a year where he removed his shoes during a first-round win over Craig Steadman – and Ding Junhui in 2017.

There was also the infamous incident with Ali Carter in a second-round defeat in 2018 where both players bumped into each other at the table.

“Yeah for sure Ronnie could win seven. It all depends on his head,” Robertson told Eurosport. “Last year was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

“Ever since he lost to Selby in the final, every year since has been really strange. He lost to Barry Hawkins (second round in 2016) which was an unbelievable match.

A lot is expected of him. Not so much from the crowd. He just seems to attract a lot more attention from people away from the table. Nothing bad or anything, it’s just he is the superstar of the game so he has to deal with a lot of that.

“He was quite open and honest about how he has approached this season. He has been quite attacking and playing to enjoy it rather than not really enjoying it at all.”

O’Sullivan has vowed to commit to a full schedule over the next two years. “I do think for the next two years I might just focus and play in every event I can possibly play in,” he said on Instagram. “Give it one last shot and see if I can get my game to a level where I’m confident of winning.”

O’Sullivan’s five-year Crucible record

  • 2019 Lost 10-8 James Cahill (first round)
  • 2018 Lost 13-9 Ali Carter (second round)
  • 2017 Lost 13-10 Ding Junhui (quarter-finals)
  • 2016 Lost 13-12 Barry Hawkins (second round)
  • 2015 Lost 13-9 Stuart Bingham (quarter-finals)

History suggests O’Sullivan will struggle to land even one more world title at the age of 44 at an event he admits he dislikes due to the elongated and exhaustive nature of it over 17 days in Sheffield. Six-times world champion Ray Reardon remains the oldest winner of the Crucible era aged 45 and 203 days in 1978.

This year’s rescheduled event is due to begin on July 31 and is likely to be played to behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic if it goes ahead. O’Sullivan is ranked 18 on the game’s one-year list. His last ranking event victory came in March 2019 when he beat Robertson 13-11 in the Tour Championship final in Llandudno.

Robertson feels O’Sullivan’s desire is the key to any future success.

“He has still played to a decent standard, but not really to the levels he reached over the previous two seasons when he won around 80 percent of all the tournaments he played in,” said Robertson.

“Which was an insane record. It all depends on what his mindset is, and what he wants out it. He has said he plans to give it a real good go.

“For the game, it would obviously be brilliant if he wants to compete again at most of the events. That would be fantastic even though it would lessen mine and everybody else’s chances of winning events including Ronnie’s too.

“It will be a fantastic challenge to see Ronnie playing more that we should all welcome.”

Desmond Kane

Well … personally, I would love to see Ronnie win ONE more. I would be delighted if he gets to six. Of course seven would be fantastic, but just one more would make me perfectly happy. Can he do it? I’m not sure. Does he still have the game? Definitely in my opinion. Does he have the desire? Probably. The real issue – in my view – is neither desire nor ability, it’s a combination of stress related to the expectations everyone puts on him, anxiety caused his own perception of the very high standard he is expected to deliver and the scars left by the 2014 defeat to Mark Selby. The latter are not to be underestimated. That defeat did hurt, very badly, and not just the defeat but the manner of it. Ronnie and Mark go along well nowadays, and there is huge respect between them, but the scars remain.

In my opinion, Ronnie’s best chance to win another World title would be to head to the Championship as an underdog, just like in 2012 and in 2013. In 2012 he had only just avoided to have to qualify after two terrible seasons, in 2013 he came as the World Champion but having just played one low key match all season, a match he had lost. If the focus and expectations are on other players, then he has a good chance to avoid the early rounds “banana skin” (*).  Once we get to the one table set-up, the whole atmosphere of the Championship changes. It’s no more a cramped venue made even more claustrophobic by the curtain in the middle. It’s a proper arena. It’s still a bear pit, but that doesn’t matter: so was Goffs in Ireland, and it was one of Ronnie’s favourite venues.

(*) I know that many fans think that Ronnie must be a confident player, considering how much he has won so far in his career. Nothing is further from the truth. He’s an anxious person. He’s been open about his depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. He’s learned to cope with that better than in the past, but it’s not gone, it never will, it’s part of the person he is. When he can get in the zone – only him and the table in a bubble – he’s incredibly strong under pressure, but when he can’t … he’s vulnerable.

Another World Championship related question was also debated between Stephen and Alan: what would happen if Judd Trump was to face Steve Davis in his prime?

Here is what Eurosport took from their conversation:

Generation game: Could Davis at his best topple Trump?

Judd Trump - Steve Davis

Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus agree that Steve Davis in his prime would have caused real problems for world champion and world number one Judd Trump with his superior tactical game.

Seven-times world champion Hendry believes Trump in top gear would win a world final “18-7 or 18-8” if the pair met at the peak of their powers, but added that his old rival’s “granite” safety game would give him a chance.

Three-times World Championship semi-finalist McManus points out that it would not be a foregone conclusion because of six-times world champion Davis’ ability to starve his opponents of chances.

“It’s tough. When you discuss different eras, you have to remember this: the day that Davis won his world titles, all the days between now and then hadn’t happened yet,” said 1994 Masters winner McManus on Instagram

“He didn’t know about Judd. He was playing the guy in the other chair.

“You’ve got to take that into account. I only played ‘The Nugget’ in the nineties, and I thought he was an unbelievable player.”

Trump produced the greatest performance in a world final with an 18-9 win over John Higgins in the 2019 final, a match that saw him make seven century breaks.

While Hendry feels Trump will carry snooker to a new level, he agreed with McManus that Davis – Crucible winner in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989 – was a fearsome competitor in his pomp.

“There was time when you wondered: ‘How could you beat him?’,” said Hendry.

“I think Judd is possibly going to take the game to a new level. Judd would probably beat him, but I’d be interested to see.

“Judd would probably beat him 18-7 or 18-8. Something like that.”

McManus recalled the UK Championship final in 1990 when Hendry edged Davis 16-15 in one of the sport’s all-time classic clashes at Preston’s Guild Hall.

“The famous UK final between you and him in 1990. I know how well you were playing. He was playing good, wasn’t he?,” said McManus.

“The other thing you have to say is that Judd would need to play well to win otherwise ‘The Nugget’ would get him.

“Davis was an unbelievable player. I played him in my first final (Asian Open in 1992) in Bangkok. I never missed a shot, I played awesome, one of the best matches I’ve ever played.

“He beat me 9-3 and I was over the moon with myself.”

This, in my opinion, is an impossible question to answer. For a start, the conditions were quite different, notably because of the heavier cloth. This made some shots easier to master (I’m thinking massés f.i.) whilst others were much more difficult (splitting the pack wide open f.i.). I think that Judd would struggle with those conditions, despite his tremendous cue power. He developed as a player on much faster tables and he plays a lot of shots that have balls traveling the full length of the table. It’s one of his strength and those shots might prove more difficult to get right on a slower table. Conversely, Steve Davis started playing on those slower tables and he may struggle for accuracy on the ultra-fast ones. Why am I writing this? Because players develop and hone their game in a certain context: the conditions available to them in their time. I’m not sure that Judd would play the type of game he plays now if he was born 30 years earlier, and Steve Davis might have become a different player too if he had been exposed to nowadays conditions in his prime. They are both supremely talented, and very fierce competitors, and that’s who they are, no matter when they were born, but how they developed as players would probably be different. I believe that, each playing at their prime level, Steve would beat Judd on the 80th conditions, whilst Judd would beat Steve playing on nowadays tables. But it’s a completely academic question.

At the time of writing I haven’t listened to the chat yet… probably more on that tomorrow then.

 

Day 9 of “No Crucible”

Yesterday evening should have seen the conclusion of the second round at the World Championship …

Eurosport has published this vodcast about the “Greatest Rivalries”

To be honest, I found this one a bit disappointing, but the issue is probably with me rather than with the vodcast. I’m not overly interested in “rivalries” and the concept of “rivalry” itself is not entirely clear to me.

I’m certain that Alex Higgins saw anyone who beat him regularly, and possibly threatened his “status” as “People Champion and the most important player on the tour, as a rival or even as an enemy. His attitude towards the like of Steve Davis, Cliff Thorburn, and Dennis Taylor suggests that much. At times he really hated them. I’m very doubtful that those “rivals” feelings were reciprocal, nor that they were so extreme. They probably had very mixed feelings: irritation most of the time, anger as well, but surely they were also disconcerted and puzzled as it was plain for all to see that he wasn’t stable mentally and battling addictions.

Some of those “rivalries” were the expression of a “change of guard”: Davis v Hendry, Hendry v Ronnie, Ronnie v Trump and to an extend Selby are examples.

Other rivalries, like Ronnie v John Higgins, John Higgins v Mark Williams, Mark Williams v Ronnie, are the true rivalries in my eyes: sportsmen of the same generation, competing against each other throughout their career. Same era, same opportunities, same conditions.

And then, you have those rivalries that are more of a fans’ thing than anything else. As much as I like Jimmy White for his unwavering love of the game, I can’t see him as a rival to either Hendry or Steve Davis in terms of career and achievements, and, surely, both Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry must have been aware of this even in their prime. Jimmy had the flair, the charisma, and the charm … but his lifestyle, personality, and iffy work ethic meant that he was never going to challenge them in terms of career achievements.

To an extend, this also goes for the Hendry v Ronnie rivalry from 2004 on. Hendry was no more the force he had been, but hope never died in his fans.

WST Crucible Gold was about Ronnie and shows his last three Crucible Finals wins

This of course triggered very fond memories for me, as I was there in 2012 and 2013.

It also awoke bittersweet ones. I was thrilled to watch him win in 2008. I was in a snooker club, because I couldn’t watch BBC at home. The club doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a supermarket now, the owner has lefts us, taken away by cancer, and I remember the mixed feelings seeing Ronnie there with his partner and two young children. At the time, I knew that their relationship was on the rocks,

Day 8 of “No Crucible” – Bizarre?

In their daily vodcast, Andy Goldstein, Neal Foulds, and Jimmy White explore “bizarre” snooker moments. 

With hindsight, it’s true that the whole 2020 Masters was a story of the unexpected, and, of course, Ronnie’s concession at the UK Championship in 2006 left everyone puzzled, and many worried. Signs that things weren’t right had been there in the previous months though.

But, there were a number of other strange moments, not included in their vodcast, and here are a few.

Dechawat Poomjaeng at the 2013 World Championship certainly should have been included …

It was both funny and disturbing. One of the funniest moments I was lucky to witness at the Crucible came in the media room after Stephen Maguire first-round defeat to Poomjaeng that year. Maguire came to the media room, obviously gutted and more than just slightly nonplussed. He literally let himself fall on the chair, sat there slumped for a few seconds, then declared “I have never seen anything like that”. Then leaned over the desk, half-covered his mouth with his hand, and with the look of a man about to disclose a dangerous secret, he whispered “Between us … he’s not the full shilling”. Now considering that there were about 5 mikes and 15 recorders on that desk, not even mentioning that the whole interview was filmed, that was quite surrealistically comical.

This incident at the Crucible in 2009 was quite strange as well and triggered endless discussions amongst fans

It’s obvious that, had Dotty not put his fist in the pocket, the white would have gone in-off. However, the white, in this case, was still on the bed of the table when Graeme touched it. Therefore, Alan Chamberlain calls a foul, as expected, but not because of the in-off, because Graeme has interfered with a ball in play. Also because there wasn’t an in-off, Alan leaves the white where it stopped, instead of cleaning it and putting it on the cushion. Mark Selby though doesn’t understand this. In his view, the white was going in-off and therefore, he believes that he has ball in hand and picks it. Alan Chamberlain immediately calls a foul … as it’s now Mark Selby who has been interfering with a ball in play. Eventually, Dott very sportingly refuses to take advantage. Strictly sticking by the rules Alan Chamberlain was right. But, under those circumstances, his call was a bit unfair on Mark Selby. I don’t think any player, except maybe Dominic Dale, or someone who is a referee as well as a player would have reacted differently than Mark did.

This one wasn’t bad either … Graeme Dott gets static shocks when touching the table at the Crucible in 2013 and asks for the carpet to be watered

Luca Brecel coming to his first-round match at the 2018 Masters, carrying two cues, was strange too, especially as, at no point, did it became clear what his intentions were. Having several cues is not unusual in pool, but the purpose is generally obvious: one cue to break, one to play, and, in some cases, another one to play jump shots. But in snooker? I can’t remember another occurrence of a player turning up with several cues.

“Crucible Gold” was looking at Stephen Hendry’s Crucible wins in 1990, 1992, 1994.

All three of those were wins over Jimmy White. In 1992, Hendry won 10 frames on the spin to win the match 18-14 from 14-8 down, in 1994, Jimmy twitched on a simple black off the spot, with the table at his mercy. Stephen was sitting in his chair, looking resigned, and admitted afterward that he didn’t expect to get another chance. Many fans are convinced that Jimmy White would surely have been a World Champion, if it wasn’t for Hendry. I love Jimmy, but I’m really not sure. He definitely should have won at least one of those two. Jimmy lost those two matches as much if not more than Stephen won them.

And finally, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie are going to do another Instagram chat on April 30, 2020. It should be interesting!

Hendry Instagram announcement

Day 7 of “No Crucible” – Ronnie looks back at his career and plans his future

Ronnie O’Sullivan reveals retirement plans after ‘disaster’ of last year

UK2018ronnie_BetwayInterviewRonnie O’Sullivan – Image credit: Getty Images

In a wide-ranging discussion about his life off the table during a storied career, Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he will retire at the age of 50.

In a frank and honest discussion, O’Sullivan spoke about how his life spiralled in the 1990s following his incredible ascent to fame as a teenager, and the imprisonment of his father, before a spell in rehab proved a turning point in his career. The five-time world champion also talked about the roles played by his mentors Ray Reardon and Steve Peters in cementing him as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

O’Sullivan went on to examine why a reduced schedule didn’t work for him in 2019-20 and how he will change next season by not practicing and instead “play every tournament”. He also revealed why he will retire in five years time…

We have selected some of the best extracts below, but you can listen to the podcast for the full episode.

RONNIE ON HIS PRIVATE LIFE IN THE 1990s

I was just partying a bit too much and like I said when I won that tournament (in 1993) I thought I’d made it. I’d come into a bit of money, I had a nice house, a nice car, I was single. So, I could do what I want when I liked really. I just probably chose the wrong company but it just got hold of me really. I took my eye off the ball. I wasn’t really focused on snooker and I wasted probably five years of my career just messing about really.

THE ‘LIGHTBULB MOMENT’ WHEN HE KNEW IT HAD TO CHANGE

I think after I lost to Stephen Hendry in 1996, and I was quite overweight as well. I was eating and drinking quite a lot. I was looking at a picture of myself and it dawned on me, and I thought, ‘I need to get myself fit again’. So, I spent three months, I lost my driving licence, so I spent three months just going to the gym two or three times a day, eating really well and got myself in good shape for the next season. And then I managed to win four of five tournaments actually, which was great. But then I went back to drinking and partying again. So for the next two years I wasn’t as bad as I was before but I was still doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. So, that’s why I decided that I had to go to The Priory. Basically, first thing in the morning I was getting up, having a drink, having a joint just to function through the day. Which never felt good because I thought ‘I don’t want to have to rely on this sort of stuff’ but it just a hold of me a bit too much and that’s when I decided to get help for it.

ON GOING TO THE PRIORY

I just rang up the drugs helpline and said, ‘I’ve got some problems and I need to get some help, I think I know what it is, and I’d like some help.’ She said fine, so she came round the house and spoke to me and within two hours of meeting her she had me in The Priory in Roehampton. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t want to go, I was scared. I thought ‘I’m not an addict, I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve just got to learn to just control it a bit’. And when I went in there and they said it was complete abstinence it was like ‘What? There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.’ But, I managed to get clean and sober. I haven’t stayed clean and sober the whole time but I don’t go out and have one or two drinks, I have a glass every six months if it’s a birthday party or New Year’s Eve thing. Otherwise I’m teetotal really.

HOW HIS CAREER WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT WITH HIS DAD AROUND

I think it would have been a lot different. I think I would have won the World Championships a lot earlier. I think I would have won plenty more tournaments. Absolutely 100% it would have been different but it was what it was and it was just unfortunate. It was unfortunate for me and unfortunate for him and things could have been so much better really. I certainly would have enjoyed my career a lot more having him around than not having him around.

RONNIE ON HOW RAY REARDON CHANGED HIS GAME

My dad made the phone call to somebody. I don’t know who he called. But he said, ‘Ronnie could do with a little bit of someone with a bit of experience in his corner. Who would you recommend?’ They mentioned a few names then said the one you really want to get hold of would be Ray Reardon. So we said, ‘Can you get his number for me?’ and he said ‘yeah, no problem.’ So we got Ray’s number and my dad phoned him up and he had a chat to him and said, ‘Would you want to help my son?’ And he went ‘Yeah, love to! No problem.’ So he got off the phone to Ray Reardon and phoned me up and ‘here, I’ve got Ray Reardon’s number, he’s waiting for you to call him.’ This was halfway through a match, I was playing Andy Hicks at the time, and I think I was 9-7 down in the final session. I had a phone call from Ray and I said ‘Ray, I’m playing well but I’m 9-7 down.’ He went, ‘he’s not scared of you, that’s why.’ I was like ‘really?’ And he said, ‘No, he’s not scared of you, no, no, no. Just keep him tight, keep tight, don’t go for them ones where you leave them easy.’ So I thought ‘alright’ and I tightened up a little bit and I won the match quite easily, about 13-10 or 13-11. But it felt different, it felt a different way of playing. I felt in control. I got more mistakes out of my opponents. So, that was my first lesson with Ray, over the phone. Then, the next day he was in Sheffield so we really got to work on the table. And then from that moment onwards I was a different player, a completely different player, and all for the better as well.

RONNIE ON STEVE PETERS

Again, that was through one of my managers at the time. He knew me better than anyone at the time and he knew that I was having these stage frights if you like. I was OK practicing but as soon as a tournament came up I was so overly anxious that I would end up worrying myself so much that I wouldn’t be able to pot a ball when I get there, and I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy it. And he read this article about this guy that Steve Peters was working with and thought that it sounds just like Ronnie and Ronnie could do with some help form this guy. So I got in touch with Steve Peters and he agreed to meet me, we went up to his house. I think I spent about an hour with him for the first session and after about 10 or 15 minutes I thought ‘this geezer’s different’ and he grabbed my attention. I thought ‘I want to see what this guy’s got to offer.’ So, I did what he said for a year or two years. I really studied hard on the model, tried to get my emotions under check which I did and I had become a different player. So in the same way that Ray changed me, Steve changed me in my mental approach. So by then, I probably felt I’d got to…I’d covered all my weaknesses if you like.

RONNIE ON REDUCING HIS SCHEDULE

I think it backfired on me this year because in previous years when I did play I either won the event or at least got to the finals. So, I was getting a lot of ranking points and that was keeping me up the rankings – I got to number one towards the end of last year, that’s with playing half the tournaments some of the other players were playing. But, you need to win tournaments to do that and this year I haven’t. I’ve made finals, played two semis, made two quarters, two last-16s. So, it hasn’t been a bad season but I haven’t played enough and obviously I’ve struggled – I think I was about 18 on the one-year list. So, next year I think I won’t practice and I’ll just play probably every tournament and use that as my practice. So, when I come home I don’t play, spend time at home and do some of my other bits and pieces that I enjoy to do, like a bit of property and stuff, because I don’t want to be a slave to the game. But then I think if I’m going to play 90 or 100 days a year, I might as well play 70 or 80 matches and just use the matches as my practice. And if you lose great you have a few days at home and just try out doing it differently and seeing what I get because last year was a disaster. And I was missing so many tournaments that when I did some back to play I felt like I was well off the pace and that isn’t a nice feeling either.

RONNIE ON RETIREMENT

I think I’ll give it one good crack maybe next year or the year after I might play some more and then by the time I’m 50 call it a day. At some point, I can’t go on forever. It would look stupid keeping playing and playing. I love doing the exhibitions and stuff like that but if I can get another four or five years out of my snooker career that’s great. Obviously I’d like to do the exhibitions but then look to do stuff away from snooker.

I can only recommend that you listen to the full podcast, instead of just reading the article, because there is a bit more to it than what’s written. It’s a very positive interview and Andy remarked that Ronnie seems to be in a good place mentally, whilst a lot of people struggle with the lockdown. Andy knows Ronnie very well; as children, they were going to the same school and became friends. Andy is a decent amateur snooker player himself. In a way, he’s the ideal interviewer for Ronnie, who trusts him, knowing that he won’t distort what he’s telling him in order to create “stories” that sell.

Here is part of the vodcast …

Ronnie will turn 45 in December, so that’s him planning to play for another five years. A lot can happen in five years…

Yesterday’s Crucible Gold was about Steve Davis.

Steve’s emotion after winning in 1981 remains endearing and infectious even after nearly forty years. The 1984 final finish is still tense and enthralling, as well. People who never saw Davis play as a young man may think that he was mainly a defensive player, but he actually was very positive in his shot selection, without being reckless. And when in 2011, he defeated John Higgins, the defending Champion, in the last 16, Steve was slower, but he was still going for his shots. I think the finish of that match, should have been included in this “Crucible Gold”.